Castlerigg at High Noon

I had been forewarned. Silence can speak volumes, and the early spring was impossible to overlook. Yet, there was that glimmer of hope that the mysteries of Castlerigg would somehow be open to me.

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The Welcoming Information at Castlerigg, which sits atop the charming town of Keswick.

We are waiting for you.

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Unlike some stone circles, Castlerigg is easy to find and access, and with unbeatable vistas it’s nearly impossible to have the place to yourself.

I had heard the ancestral call. I had felt the cells stir through centuries past with a visceral memory that fired my body into deep longing in the weeks, months, and even years before I made this journey. Yet it was not to be. Not this time anyway.

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The stones felt lifeless to me, as though their energy had retreated deep within their forms.

We drove up the hill that holds the stone circle known as Castlerigg at high noon on a brilliantly warm spring-like Sunday. Cars flanked the roadside, and at its crest an ice cream van sat in wait for the throngs of hungry tourists. The urge to turn around and hop back into the car nearly consumed me. You can’t erase first impressions.

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Castlerigg is an undeniably beautiful place any time of the year.

Sometimes, though, we must face our must crushing moments head-on and take the lessons they give us. Disappointment can be a gift, leading to surrender and acceptance. And so I climbed to the top of the hill and met the stones filled with visitors.

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I wanted to spend some time with this stone in particular, but as you can see it was a popular spot.

It’s a beautiful place, I am sure, in any season, and that day Castlerigg shone with the light of the noonday sun. Bright and golden. It lit the faces of the picnicking family having lunch in the sanctuary (hence the absence of photos of this intriguing area of the site). Its rays played through the shadows of bodies as they wove in and out of the standing stones, and lit the smiling faces of selfies posed amid the inert bodies of rocks.

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Although I didn’t do a great job capturing it, the stones of Castlerigg shadow the contours of the surrounding landscape.

The site was filled with energy, but it was not coming from the stones, or the distance hills that rim the landscape. Instead, it came from the revelers of humans visiting the site.  It was, in many ways, the antithesis of the encounter with Castlerigg I had envisioned.

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Even the faces one expects to find in ancient stones were virtually absent during my visit.

If I could, I would take it all back. I know that this may be the wrong response, but it’s the truth. There’s no point in lying to oneself, it merely pushes the truth into dark corners where it festers for light. It is not an easy thing to do, writing this post. It would be impossible to describe the full impact of my first encounter with Castlerigg, and its effects on me. Yet, it is for me, and me alone to process as I attempt to dig inside and find the gifts from this experience. Not the “why,” as much as the acceptance of the “is.”

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It was as though the spirits in the stones had turned their backs to me.

What felt, in the moment, as the ultimate betrayal and rejection — a date to meet the beloved, only to find the beloved had receded back inside the the distant hills — led to the inevitable acceptance that the beloved resides within. Always present. Yet, this is not an easy acceptance. I still long for that promised (re)union. To place my body supine upon that open hillside in the middle of the ancient stones and hover in the liminal space that bridges the Earth to the heavens. I still long for that moment where I can open myself completely to the spirits of the land and listen to all they have to say. To feel the wild wrap of the elements and the stirrings of a long held magic waiting, just waiting, to be brought to life in that perfect moment of union.

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Below Castlerigg, the lakes of Cumbria mirror the glory of the land.

There is, though, a comfort in the mundane, and the knowing that I made it through this trial. This test, of which I am still unsure of the answers. That I am unscathed, albeit a bit heartbroken. My beloveds surround me in physical form back home in New Hampshire, and little, in the greater vista of life, has been lost.

Later that night, when I closed my eyes to sleep I saw the girl standing in the hallway and the wrap of cloth around her eyes had disappeared. I still had two full days ahead of me, and I was determined to make the best of what was offered to me.

To be continued…To read the previous posts in this series about my recent visit to England, please follow the links below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4